Mantronix – “Bassline”

I’m convinced: In order to have a great album you need to have an electronic WHOOSH sound for the introduction. Seriously. It works.

For tonight’s post we’re setting our clocks back thirty years, because this album is a legit hip-hop classic, one which has influenced our beloved genre more than you think.

It’s a shame that Mantronix seems to get passed over a bit when it comes to discussions of classic rap groups. The New York team of producer/deejay Kurtis Mantronik and rapper MC Tee played an integral part in defining the sound of hip-hop. The duo arrived in 1984, right in the middle of a transitional period for the fledgling genre. At that time, hip-hop culture as a whole was just over a decade old, and just over a half-decade when it came to the music. The scene was still quite local, contained to New York City, but was growing fast and flirting with greater public exposure. Your average rap record at the time was focused on party raps and bragging and boasting rhymes over R&B-influenced sounds, much of the time interpolated (with a session band replaying the beat from another artist’s song), though some artists were taking steps in new directions, such as Run-D.M.C. with a hard rock sound(and soon to blow up with it), and Afrika Bambaataa with the synthesizers and electro influences. Mantronix, though? They kicked the door down.

Mantronik utilized the famous TR-808 drum machine to great effect, working off of influences like Bambaataa and Kraftwerk to create sonorous, synthesizer-heavy sounds, catchy rhythms, vocoded vocals and endless digitized claps and drum patterns. Altogether it sounded absolutely futuristic, but MC Tee kept things down to earth with his street-smart b-boy rhymes.

Together Mantronix gained a lot of praise and acclaim for their ’85 debut, simply titled The Album, and while it may sound dated today, the sound was so fresh and unique on release that it came to be very influential, not only in hip-hop where more artists began making original compositions on beat machines like the 808, but electronic music as well, creating a bridge between the two genres. Mantronix definitely got a lot of attention from the club crowd. They came to define the sound of rap in the mid-’80s.

So for tonight’s post I felt compelled to post “Bassline,” the opener of The Album, a listen I’ve had on repeat all damn day. Enjoy.

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